Stolen Goods

She only wanted a baby…but he wanted it all

FBI agent Nolan Findley is on the hunt. There is a woman out there who just might be pregnant with his child. Possibly. He’ll do whatever it takes to find her, learning everything he can about her past regardless of how it impacts her future.

Weslyn Moon only wanted a baby—not a man. But it’s hard to deny her attraction when Agent Findley shows up at her motel room and manhandles her back to the scene of one of her many crimes…the reproductive center where she stole his sperm.

 

~Preview~

Nolan debated. The little mouse who wouldn’t touch a man willingly? The defensive creature that had crept through the halls of the reproductive center wholly, visibly uncomfortable in the presence of the doctor that she had chosen to perform the illegal procedure? The battered little girl who’d grown into a woman brazen enough to steal something so fundamentally his?

No.

Nolan slid further onto the table, ensuring that he wouldn’t tumble off. Moon stiffened even more, but he paid her no mind. Besides, he shook too badly to stand and he refused to tear his eyes from the computer screen attached to the ultrasound probe, so he needed an anchor as the earth shifted beneath his feet.

“Are you all right?” The physician’s assistant asked him.

He didn’t answer. How could he? Nolan refused to describe how he felt—the way his lungs seemed determined to flip inside out or the way his heart grew lighter than air. And all for little more that some squiggly greenish lines on a computer screen, ever changing as the woman swept the wand over Moon’s stomach in slow passes.

But the rapid heartbeat of the baby filled the room—and Nolan’s ears, his mind, his gut… He gritted his teeth and held on to his composure by his fingernails.

The P.A. had found the fetus quickly—a blob had never looked so miraculous to Nolan. He shuddered and dragged in enough oxygen to keep from passing out, but he didn’t dare blink in case he missed something. In the next moment, the physician’s assistant moved her hand, and Nolan distinctly made out the head, the body of his child. Another shift showed him the baby’s spine and leg bones.

“What—” He cleared his throat. “What is that dark, fluttery thing?”

“The heart.”

“The heart,” he repeated quietly. He covered his own as it picked up its pace. “Oh, hell.”

Another moment went by in relative silence. The only sound was the magnified heartbeat of the fetus, but Nolan drank it into his senses and held it close. His child.

“Can you…” Moon moved, making the handcuffs clink softly. “Um, can you tell if it’s a boy or a girl?”

Nolan tensed, but the woman shook her head. “It’s not in the right position to see the sex.”

A splash of disappointment quickly faded, as Nolan caught sight of the outline of a foot. “What can you tell me?”

He watched the little heart pulsate onscreen as the woman busied herself with her job. Listening intently to all she said, Nolan paid extra close attention while the physician’s assistant validated the timeline of conception and indicated all the measurements were normal for her estimates. Satisfaction gripped him when the lady came up with a due date perfectly in line with what the Barre Birth and Reproductive Center staff had already projected. All in all, everything seemed as it should, and Nolan’s relief vastly outweighed his desire to know if Moon carried his son or his daughter.

The main point he focused on was that the baby had to be his. Had to. Nothing else matched the time line.

His. He was sure.

The physician’s assistant moved the probe again. “I think you should schedule an appointment for a transvaginal ultrasound to make sure everything’s as it should be. We don’t have the equipment here, since we’re mostly looking at people’s runny noses, you know? But you should call your GP or, um…the prison doctors and—”

“I’ve already had one,” Moon mumbled. “I went to the South Shore Women’s Health Center when I was eight weeks along. They told me we could schedule another ultrasound for later in my pregnancy but I haven’t…been back there yet.”

“Health Center… That’s how I found you.” Nolan finally tore his gaze away from the computer screen and looked down at the criminal who had changed his entire life. She was still staring at the image of their child, her unremarkable face softened into a Madonna’s rapture—beyond beautiful, and it made him furious. “A different health center called us to report how suspicious you’d acted while you were there, Moon.”

“Huh. I know which one, too. I knew I should have left the city,” she whispered.

“It took all this time to track you down after you stole my baby. And it is mine, isn’t it, Moon?”

“I told you, the baby is mine.” His prisoner moved suddenly, sending her handcuffs clanging over the apparatus he’d secured her too. “It’s not yours.”

“I’ll just go get your…um…” The physician’s assistant looked up, her gaze bouncing between Nolan and Weslyn. Her eyebrows lifted and her mouth worked. It seemed the woman had as much trouble breathing as he did, then she tossed the exam equipment aside and jumped off her stool. “I’ve got to get some paperwork.”

Nolan ignored the woman as she fled, didn’t even flinch at the slamming of the door. He simply leaned closer to Moon and glared into her eyes. And evaluated tactics.

When he’d found the thief in her dingy motel room, he’d been prepared for the quiet, cautious mouse. He’d even been prepared for her to run or fight or lie. All survival skills Nolan was sure she’d learned at some point during her tragic childhood. It was no wonder that she’d done her best to fade into the background—no makeup, few hasty movements, even fewer words. Her silence was carefully crafted to make him forget about her.

But she was unforgettable—more so than he’d ever expected. Even barring her theft of his semen sample, Nolan knew he would never have been able to look past Moon in any circumstance. Compelled to stand close, where her hidden energy seared his skin, the quiet she exuded drew him, the wariness radiating off her made him protective. Staring at her, he was reminded of all the reasons he’d wanted to join the Bureau.

“I looked for you,” he rumbled. “From the moment the Reproductive Center contacted me, I started looking for you. I know everything about you now.”

“I doubt it,” Moon spat. “I doubt you know anything at all. If you did, you’d let me go because you know I’m not trying to hurt anybody.”

She turned her neon blue eyes up to him, sucker-punching Nolan in that moment. She was quiet, yes. Cautious, certainly. Plain—only to a blind man. Sweet, wholesome and standard, pretty of course…but her eyes glowed like an angel’s, all-knowing and all-watching. Scared.

“The security cameras couldn’t show me your eyes, Moon.”

“So?”

Terror shone from the azure depths and slammed into him full force. Long-seeing, long-suffering—she stared down into his soul and twisted him up inside, making him want things he’d refused to contemplate during the frustrating months he’d searched for her and researched her. Something in his chest contracted and refused to unclench.

“They didn’t do them justice. I’ve seen everything from fear to wonder in your eyes in the past two hours, and I’ve done nothing to make you so terrified of being in my presence—”

She rattled the cuffs. “I could argue that.”

“No, you’re just always watchful.” As a man, as a law enforcement agent, the secrets that made Moon’s eyes glow formed a knife that slashed at both Nolan’s gut and conscience. “It’s like you’ve seen it all, hoped for better, but still steel yourself against further disappointment.”

“It’s called being a realist.”

She was trapped, at his mercy, though Nolan wondered what would happen if she gave a harder tug against the equipment he’d secured her to. Her breathing, rather than speeding up, remained slow and steady, her lips remained pressed together tightly whenever she shut her mouth. But her eyes were wide and expectant, brilliant as robin’s eggs under the overheads.

“I’m a realist too, Moon. Did my wife hire you?”

The air exploded from her mouth. “Wife?”

“Ex.” Nolan could see from her expression that she’d had no thoughts of him being married. She didn’t know his ex, wasn’t hired by her to be a surrogate for the child they hadn’t been able to conceive together. Just as his ex-wife had maintained for four long months.

“Shit.” Nolan deflated. He dragged a hand over his face and sat on the edge of the exam table again, lower this time, next to Moon’s hip. He placed his hand to the side of her sticky belly-button and breathed deep. “Why me?”

“I told you—”

He stopped her denial before she could utter it again. “A paternity test can clear everything up and, when it does, if you’ve been lying to me I’ll make you suffer. Tell me the truth.”

Her throat worked for a long moment. Finally, she answered in a thin voice that shook the slightest amount. “I liked the way you looked.”

“The way I—” He shook his head, remembering the sketchbook he’d found in her possession. Weslyn Moon was talented. The sight of his own face, exquisitely drawn in pencil had taken his breath and heated him straight through. He’d known, in that moment, that she’d imagined him—and not ways that had left her scared or nervous. “Why?”

“You…had kindness in your eyes. I’d like for my child to be kind.” Her lower lip trembled, but she continued on gamely. “There’s enough ugliness in the world.”

Nolan’s heart squeezed. Despite knowing what he did about her past, her words were more telling than anything he’d found in the records so far. “You have seen it all, haven’t you? Every bit of ugly a little girl can witness. I’ve read your file, Moon. Hell, I made your file.”

She closed her eyes. “Mmm.”

“You were lonely, weren’t you?” He couldn’t help but prod her. “And now you’re just another woman looking for her last chance at being loved. You think a child will love you unconditionally, filling all the holes your father created so long ago, right?”

She didn’t answer, not that he expected her to.

“But why knock over a sperm bank, Moon? Why? Why not just pick some guy up at a bar for a one-night stand? The odds of conception would have been higher.”

“Nineteen percent was obviously enough,” she muttered.

“Come on, tell me the truth. Why a sperm bank?”

“Milliken owed me.”

“But it got you caught, Moon.” Nolan purposefully badgered her. “Tell me why. Why a sperm bank and not a good, hard fuck—”

“I didn’t want to touch anyone,” she burst out. “I couldn’t… I didn’t… I don’t like—” She cut off her own jumbled explanation with a growl before she bit her lip and closed her eyes.

Satisfaction and possessiveness roared through him. “Yeah and now look at you.”

Nolan glanced down at her exposed stomach and the blue-tinged goop smeared across it. He reached out to snag a handful of paper towels from the dispenser hung over the trash can across from the table. As gently as he could, he cleaned her up, hoping to buy himself some time while he thought of what he would do.

He had to take her in. She was a wanted fugitive and he couldn’t just let her go. He wouldn’t, now that he’d heard his child’s heartbeat. Besides, she’d have access to better prenatal care locked up than she would as a free woman, and the health of his miracle baby was very important to Nolan.

But what to do later, after she had it, stymied him. DNA tests to prove paternity, a round of interviews with Child Protective Services to gain custody…

She’d gone through an awful lot of trouble to conceive, but no way in hell would Nolan give up his child. He traced a pale scar that edged around Moon’s side toward her back as he tried to plot his next step.

Her trembling voice broke into his thoughts. “You want this baby, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you can’t have it!” Her sweet, ordinary face mutated into a harsh expression of such ferocity Nolan blinked. He hadn’t thought his little mouse could be so fierce.

Acting on impulse, he bent over Moon and placed his ear against her belly. He couldn’t hear the child within, but he imagined he could. Joy swept through him and he struggled to tamp it down, blinking to clear the sudden moisture from his eyes. On the heels of that, some new emotion gripped him—he didn’t know what, but it was sharper than anger and harder than the protective instincts already kicking in.

“You’re mine, and I will never let you go,” he breathed over her belly. But, in that moment, as he raised his head to look up into the neon glare of his prisoner, Nolan wasn’t sure if he was talking to his baby, or to Weslyn Moon.